SBA ordered to cough up contracting data
Central Valley Business Times
September 29, 2008
• Government agency loses Freedom of Information lawsuit
• ‘All of the information the Bush Administration has been releasing … is misleading and disingenuous’
The Small Business Administration has been ordered to reveal the specific names of all firms that had received federal small business contracts during fiscal years 2005 and 2006, according to the American Small Business League, which sued the SBA for the information.
The ASBL says U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Patel denied all of the SBA's motions on Tuesday, in the latest Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case filed by the ASBL against the Small Business Administration.
Although the SBA had been previously ordered by Ms. Patel to release the information to Lloyd Chapman, president of ASBL, the SBA attempted to have the case dismissed as a means of avoiding releasing further information and having to reimburse the ASBL for its legal fees, ASBL says.
Bush Administration officials fought to withhold the release of the names to circumvent disclosing that Fortune 500 firms and other large businesses around the world had received a lion's share of government small business contracts since President Bush assumed office in 2001, ASBL says.
“This is just more press release gamesmanship by the ASBL. The records ASBL sought in this case were produced, controlled and possessed by the General Services Administration. GSA provided the records to the ASBL prior to its suit against the SBA,” says SBA spokesman Sean Rushton in an e-mail to CVBT. “Therefore, SBA believes ASBL’s lawsuit was unnecessary, and SBA stands behind the position it took in the litigation.
“All this fits a pattern of duplicative and unnecessary lawsuits from ASBL. SBA is committed to transparency and accountability, yet ASBL prefers to take up SBA staff time -- time that could be spent helping small businesses get federal contracts -- with ceaseless suits, information requests and misleading public statements,” he says.
SBA says it is considering an appeal to the Ninth Circuit in conjunction with the Department of Justice.
During the proceedings, attorneys for the Bush Administration persistently denied that the SBA had ever possessed a list containing the names of firms that had received government small business contracts. They went on to claim that officials at the SBA never had knowledge of the actual recipients of federal government small business contracts for any year.
Regarding the SBA's claims, case documents stated, "The court finds it curious the SBA's argument that it does not 'control' the very information it needs to carry out its duties and functions."
After questioning SBA attorneys, Ms. Patel declined to accept the SBA's claim and stated, "SBA's attempt to argue that the information sought by the League is not an 'agency record' is the kind of bureaucratic foot-dragging that FOIA -- by providing the public with free open access to government records -- was designed to avoid."
"By now it should be obvious to everyone involved that all of the information the Bush Administration has been releasing on federal small business contracting is misleading and disingenuous," Mr. Chapman says.
"The truth is, the Bush Administration has intentionally diverted the vast majority of our government's small business contracts to some of the largest companies in the world," Mr. Chapman says.